“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness… teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
“Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that… while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
1 Pet. 3:1-4
Order of Contents
Baxter, Richard – A Breviate of the Life of Margaret… Wife of Richard Baxter (London, 1681)
Baxter was an English, congregationalist puritan. His wife took on numerous public labors in service of Christianity. Baxter here gives the life of his wife, and defends her Christian labors as an example to others. See the historical article on this subject by Osborne below.
Alexander, Archibald – ‘Counsels to Christian Mothers’ no date or source info 27 paragraphs
Hodge, Charles – ‘Introduction’ to The Faithful Mother’s Reward: a Narrative of the Conversion and Happy Death of J.B., who Died in the Tenth Year of His Age (1853) 9 pp.
Miller, Samuel – ‘The Appropriate Duty & Ornament of the Female Sex, a Sermon on Acts 9:36-41’ in The Columbian Preacher (1808), p. 249 ff.
Smyth, Thomas – ‘The Sphere, Character & Destiny of Woman’ in Works, vol. 10 American, southern presbyterian
‘Aids to Beautification’ (1983) 9 pp.
Kayser shows that adorning ourselves for the purpose of beauty, while it can be abused, is good, intended of God and Biblical. The short article has specific regard to jewelry, cosmetics and perfume.
Beeke, Joel – ‘The Creation of Woman’ no date 9 pp.
Mather, Cotton – Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion, or the Character & Happiness of a Virtuous Woman: in a Discourse which Directs the Female-Sex how to Express the Fear of God in Every Age & State of their Life & Obtain Both Temporal & Eternal Blessedness (Cambridge, 1692) 102 pp.
On the Post-Reformation
ed. Irwin, Joyce – ‘[Gisbert] Voetius on Women’ in Anna Marie van Schurman, Whether a Christian Woman Should be Educated and Other Writings from her Intellectual Circle (Univ. of Chicago, 1998), pp. 17-21
Osborne, Seth – ‘Margaret Baxter, Richard Baxter & the Defense of Women’s Public Role in Restoration England’ (2020) 25 pp.
“Restoration England [post-1660] witnessed a prolonged period of ecclesiastical persecution to stamp out religious nonconformists, but women responded to this suppression by stepping into more prominent and public roles… many nonconformist women earned the title of ‘nursing mothers’ through their public efforts to nurture and promote Protestant dissent in the face of fierce resistance…
Scholars have often depicted Margaret [Baxter] as a paragon of Puritan virtue who fulfilled the traditional role of a wife. However, such depictions underemphasize the controversial nature of Margaret’s agency in her own time. Like the ‘nursing mothers,’ her activities broke with established norms for women. Her efforts to aid her husband in composing religious literature, patronize the illegal ministry of non-conformist pastors, establish schools for religious education, and set up charities, all drew significant criticism, since they lay outside the ‘appropriate’ private sphere of a woman.
And yet Richard Baxter used his memorialization of her life (A breviate of the life of Margaret) to not only praise her public labors but also defend her against critics of her public role. By appealing to biblical examples of women who helped Paul in his ministry, he rebuked those who maligned her for not being content to stay at home. Thus, Margaret’s life does not simply shed additional light on how many women of the period achieved a greater space for female agency; rather, her memorialization in print provided English readers with a new, biblically defended image of how godly female piety could be fleshed out in the public realm.”
On the View of Andrew Rivet
Willem van Asselt in Theology of the French Reformed Churches (RHB, 2014), p. 268
“With Anna Maria van Schurman in Utrecht, renowned for her learning, he [Rivet] had a frequent correspondence on the question of whether Christian women ought to study arts and letters. He supported Schurman in her intellectual pursuits but saw her as an exception to the female norm.”
How Far Wives are to Obey Their Husbands
Westminster Larger Catechism
“Q. 127. What is the honour that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A. The honour which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart,[l] word,[m] and behaviour;[n] prayer and thanksgiving for them;[o] imitation of their virtues and graces;[p] willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels;[q] due submission to their corrections;[r] fidelity to,[s] defence,[t] and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places;[v] bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love,[w] that so they may be an honour to them and to their government.[x]
[l] Mal. 1:6. Lev. 19:3.
[m] Prov. 31:28. 1 Pet. 3:6.
[n] Lev. 19:32. 1 Kings 2:19.
[o] 1 Tim. 2:1,2.
[p] Heb. 13:7. Phil. 3:17.
[q] Eph. 6:1,2,5-7. 1 Pet. 2:13,14. Rom. 13:1-5. Heb. 13:17. Prov. 4:3,4. Prov. 23:22. Exod. 18:19,24.
[r] Heb. 12:9. 1 Pet. 2:18-20.
[s] Tit. 2:9,10.
[t] 1 Sam. 26:15,16. 2 Sam. 18:3. Esth. 6:2.
[v] Matt. 22:21. Rom. 13:6,7. 1 Tim. 5:17,18. Gal. 6:6. Gen. 45:11. Gen. 47:12.
[w] 1 Pet. 2:18. Prov. 23:22. Gen. 9:23.
[x] Ps. 127:3-5. Prov. 31:23
Q. 128. What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
A. The sins of inferiors against their superiors are, all neglect of the duties required toward them;[y] envying at,[z] contempt of,[a] and rebellion[b] against, their persons[c] and places,[d] in their lawful counsels,[e] commands, and corrections;[f] cursing, mocking,[g] and all such refractory and scandalous carriage, as proves a shame and dishonour to them and their government.[h]
Evans, Keith – ‘Hyper-Headship in Marriage’ (2022) 9 paragraphs at Gentle Reformation
English-Popish Ceremonies (1637), pt. 3, ch. 4, p. 49
“I have also proven before that human laws do not bind to obedience but only in this case, when the things which they prescribe do agree and serve to those things which God’s Law prescribes: so that as human laws they bind not, neither have they any force to bind, but only by participation with God’s Law.”
An Exposition of All St. Paul’s Epistles… (London, 1659), on Eph. 5, v. 24
“From these reasons he inferrs the conclusion: that it is necessary for the wife to be obedient to her husband in all things which hinder not her due subjection unto God and Christ.”
A Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul… (London: T. Ward, 1841)
on Eph. 5:22, p. 242
“And thirdly, it must be only in things lawful, and no ways contrary to that submissive obedience which they owe to him [Christ].”
on Eph. 5:24, p. 243
“He adds, secondly, the extent of this subjection and obedience, even to all things: which is not to be understood of all things absolutely, and without exception, Acts 5:29, but all things lawful, godly, honest, and which are not forbidden in the word of God, even though they
cross the humor of the wives, and argue little discretion in the husband who commands them. Numb. 5:1-15, etc.; for nothing is excepted here but what is contrary to that subjection which is due to Him who has commanded
this subjection of wives to their husbands, as Paul comments upon an expression like to this, 1 Cor. 15:27.”
Sermons upon Eph. 5
sermon, 27, p. 439 on Eph. 5:22
“[2.] By fulfilling his commands in all things lawful, and not contrary to her duty to God: Titus 2:5, ‘ Let wives be obedient to their own husbands.'”
sermon 29, on Eph. 5:24
“2. The extent; unlimited, ‘In everything;’ that is, in everything that is lawful and belonging to her duty. Certainly those things which hinder our due subjection to God and Christ are excepted; as the apostle in another case, 1 Cor. 15:29, ‘When He hath put all things under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted that hath put all things under Him.’ There are cases excepted by a superior law. In Luke 14:26, it is said, ‘If a man hate not father and mother, wife and children, he cannot be my disciple.'”
“1. It is a righteous subjection, not a slavish, but so as that her authority may be kept up over her children and servants.”
Counsel to the Pregnant about to Give Birth
Mather, Cotton – Elizabeth in her Holy Retirement. An Essay to Prepare a Pious Woman for her Lying in, or Maxims & Methods of Piety, to Direct & Support an Handmaid of the Lord who Expects a Time of Travail (Boston, 1710) 36 pp.
Counsel to Mothers Regarding Day Care
Erasmus, Desiderius – ‘A Dialogue of a Woman in Child-Bed’ in Seven Dialogues… 5. is of Putting Forth Children to Nurse... (d. 1536; London, 1606) 25 pp.
It had become fashionable in Erasmus’s day for mothers to give their infants to wet-nurses to nurse for them. Erasmus, through this dialogue of two women, argues that this is not natural or ideal for the baby’s development.
Hall, Thomas – ‘An Appendix containing Diverse Reasons & Arguments Against Painting, Spots, Naked Backs, Breasts, Arms, etc. Together with a Discovery of the Nakedness, Madness & Folly of the Adamites [Nudists] of our Time, a Refutation of All their Cavils, & Removing of All Those Fig-Leaves under which they would Hide Themselves’ in The Loathsomeness of Long Hair [for Men]… (London, 1654), pp. 98-123
Hall (1610–1665) was an English, presbyterian, puritan minister who was ejected at the Great Ejection of 1662.
Voet, Gisbert – pt. 2, bk. 1, tract 4, ‘On Women’, pp. 179-212 in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 3 (Amsterdam, 1663-1676)
Ch. 1, Questions about the Status and Natural Condition of Women, p. 179
Section 1, p. 179
2nd Question, ‘Whether a woman is an error of nature, an imperfect male, and is born by accident, and therefore is a deformity [monstrum]? [No]’, p. 181 3 reasons from Scripture, 5 from reason, p. 182
4th Question, ‘Whether a female may truly mutate into a male [e.g. hermaphrodites at birth]?’ p. 184
5th Question, ‘Whether the man and woman [Adam & Eve] were created simultaneously; even their two persons having been conjoined together, but thereafter having been divided or separated by God? [No]’ p. 185
Some Romanists and Jews held to such. “…But this figment will vanish from reading the text…”
7th Question, ‘Whether the woman was brought forth on the 6th Day? [Yes]’, p. 186
“Thomas denies… But authors cited hold the opposite, and Lipomanus, Pererius, Marius, A Lapide in his commentary, Bonaventure (2, distinction 18, question 2), and us commonly in notes and commentaries.” 2 reasons, p. 187
1st & 2nd Objections, pp. 188-91, with responses
3rd Objection, p. 191, 2 responses
4th Objection, p. 192. 3 responses, pp. 193-4
5th Objection, p. 194 5 reasons, pp. 194-6
6th Objection, p. 196, 2 responses, an Instance with 2 responses, pp. 197-8
Ch. 2. Of Those Things which Pertain to the Secular & Political State of Women, p. 198
Section 1, p. 198
1st Question, ‘Whether women may be infereior in dignity to men? [Yes]’, p. 198
“I respond: Yes, from the affirmation and reasons brought by the Apostle in 1 Cor. 11 & 1 Tim. 2, which I will not repeat here. The same Nature speaks (as the apostle adduces on the question of the hair of the woman, 1 Cor. 11:13-15); and by natural law, inscribed on all hearts, either explicitly, or surely implicitly.’
2nd Question, ‘Whether women may be inferior to this extent, such that in the state of marriage they ought to be in subjection just as female-servants? I respond: No.’, p. 198
3rd Question, ‘Whether the superiority of a man over a wife may extend to striking [verbera] her?’, p. 199
“This question we have handled above, [vol. 2,] part 1, bk. 3, tract 1, section 3, ch. 3, [‘Of Repudiations & Divorces, by which things the Bond of Matrimony itself is Loosed’, Question 11, ‘Whether it may be allowed in marriage, or convenient, to chastise the wife with strikes?’, pp. 185-6] nor are we repeating it here.”
In Question 11 Voet cites numerous authors for it (including Alsted) and then others against it, including Gerhard and Beza. “Our opinion is No, including from the following  reasons…”
In the 3rd Question Voet cites numerous authors both for and against the practice, and then quotes Chrysostom at length, being strongly against it.
4th Question, ‘Whether a marriage may hold the right of life and slaughter with respect to the wife? I respond: No.’, p. 200
5th Question, ‘Whether women may or ought to exercise public command and rule? [Ordinarily no, except in extreme necessity]’, p. 201
6th Question, ‘Whether arms and wars ought to be borne by women? [We distinguish]’, p. 202
7th Question, ‘Whether studes of wisdom and literature may be convenient for women? [a qualified Yes]’, p. 202
8th Question, ‘Whether women ought to be externally distinguished from men, and in what way? [It ought to be distinguished…]’, pp. 205-6 3 conclusions
Ch. 3. Some Things which Pertain to the Spiritual & Ecclesiastical State of Women are Explained, p. 206
1st Question, ‘Whether there may be a distinction between men and women as to their ecclesiastical state?’, p. 206, 2 conclusions: No and Yes.
2nd Question, ‘Whether women are more religious than men? I respond: Yes.’ p. 206-7 3 reasons
Voet says that there were significantly more women members in the Dutch churches than men, as well as that frequented public exercises of religion. He then evidences the same from the ancient Church.
3rd Question, ‘Whether a woman has a greater propensity to superstition? I respond: This is commonly affirmed.’, p. 207
4th Question, ‘Whether women have a greater propensity to heresies? I respond: No.’, p. 208
5th Question, ‘Whether women and men are to be equally admitted to sacred exercises, whether public, private or private-public? I respond: Yes.’ pp. 209-12
Objection, p. 210